Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ash, by Malinda Lo

Ash is Malinda Lo's first novel. It's Cinderella retold:

In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

September 2009
Little, Brown
264 pp

I would have killed for this story 35 years ago, just killed: fantasy, woods, fairies, girl-on-girl love. There was nothing like it, then. Nothing.

You know the story of Cinderella. In this version, Ash, short for Aisling (the author tells me her name is pronounced ASH-ling, though I spent the whole book pronouncing it in my head as Ash-LEEN, sigh), falls in love with a fairy (a boy) and then with the king's huntress. Aisling's emotional journey, from loved and privileged girl child to despised young serving woman, is clearly and simply written, though never simplistic. (I particularly enjoyed her multi-layered relationship with her two stepsisters.)

For one thing, there's that fairy. He is taken very much from the elf model (see my post about gender and elves and Anglo-Saxons). Toying with his affections is about as safe as playing with nitroglycerin. And, indeed, Ash does pay a real price; Lo doesn't flinch from that. My favourite bit of the book comes near the end, when it's time for Ash to pay for the party favours (literally, party favours--though the glamours Sidhean offers Ash for the various balls etc. are high end, definitely not cheap). Ash asks him, Will I die? And he says, Only a little. Ooof. Great stuff.

It's a lovely, gentle--yet, as I've said, unflinching--book. Ash's change is one many lesbians go through: head turned by some boy glam and the promise of belonging, followed by the understanding that the promise is not real, it can't be real, it's a fairytale. Malinda Lo makes that metaphor--fairytale love vs. reality--concrete. I the book cover to cover without stopping, despite having read an early draft. I'm biased, given my early input, but I think Lo has done a fine job of using the environmental details, particularly the woods, to mirror her protagonist's emotional state. (As far I'm concerned, that's what a novelistic environment is for...)

Lo, who is Asian American, writes here about how she handled the issue of race in the book. I have some thoughts on that but I'll let you read the author's thoughts first. If you like the way she talks about her work, watch this:

Then go read her talking on John Scalzi's blog about her approach to same-sex relationships in fantasy fiction. (And, oh, you know I have most definite notions about that--but go read Lo's comments first.)

And then, hey, go buy the book. Even better, give it to some thirteen-year old you know. It might change her life; it would have changed mine.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

why I do what I do

Today I'm going to point you to my Sterling Editing blog post, about why I like to edit and coach other writers. I'm closing the comments here, but if you're so moved, let me know what you think over on Sterling.

It's another gorgeous day here in Seattle but it's all going to change tomorrow I think...

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

in the kingdom of the spiders

We are having perfect weather here in Seattle. Blue skies, bright sun, cold nights. The spiders are spinning webs everywhere, munching up the last of the flying meals. I find four or five new webs every morning. They are not small. We try to keep the paths clear but twice in the last week people have come to the door looking utterly freaked out and sweaty--they walked unsuspectingly through a web. Sadly, I don't care. All I care about is that this weather smells of autumn, and I remember: my birthday is coming. Life is good.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Lambda Literary Award guidelines clarification

As promised, here is the letter of clarification regarding the guidelines for the 2009 Lambda Literary Awards nominations process. Katherine Forrest is the new interim President and Tony Valenzuela the new interim Executive Director of the foundation.

Clarification of Lambda Literary Foundation Policy Guidelines of Nominations, 2009 Lambda Literary Awards, from Katherine V. Forrest, Interim President, Board of Trustees

September 25, 2009 - The Board of Lambda Literary Foundation, under the leadership of Christopher Rice, spent much of last year discussing how our literature has evolved, and the actual mission of the Foundation given the perilous place we find ourselves in with our drastically changed market conditions. We also took into consideration the despair of our own writers when a heterosexual writer, who has written a fine book about us, wins a Lambda Award, when one or more of our own LGBT writers may have as a Finalist a book that may be the only chance in a career at a Lambda Literary Award.

We discussed two essential questions: who we are, what we are here to accomplish. We discussed every single word of this, our Mission statement: The Lambda Literary Foundation is dedicated to raising the status of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

Lambda Literary Foundation is a service organization for our writers. Our LGBT family of writers. We celebrate those who support our writers, those in all the allied areas of our literature: our readers, publishers, booksellers, publicists, agents, etc. We celebrate straight allies of every kind and always have throughout our history, with the Bridge Builder Award, Small Press Award, Publishers Service Award, Editor's Choice Award, among other awards and acknowledgments, and we'll continue to do so.

Today we continue to be excluded in heterosexual society as we have been historically. Our books are taken from the shelves of libraries all over the country and even from the website of this year. It is more difficult to be an LGBT writer now than it has been in many decades, more difficult to make any income from our written words, much less a living. Publishers have closed, stores have closed, the markets seem to be shrinking with each passing day. It seems more urgent than ever that LLF be as active and supportive a service organization as we possibly can be for our own writers, and that's what we're working on, with a Board that could not be more passionate in our commitment. We will soon have a new, far more comprehensive website connecting all segments of our publishing world, and we're determined to restore our Writers Retreat for emerging writers, the single most important initiative we've undertaken next to the Lambda Literary Awards.

As to what defines LGBT? That is not up to anyone at Lambda Literary Foundation to decide. The writers and publishers are the ones who will be doing the self-identifying. Sexuality today is fluid and we welcome and cherish this freedom. We take the nomination of any book at face value: if the book is nominated as LGBT, then the author is self-identifying as part of our LGBT family of writers, and that is all that is required. There are many permutations of LGBT and they're all welcome as that LGBT term we've all adopted makes clear.

We hope this will clarify our policy and answer some of your questions and concerns. We welcome your comments.

Contact: Tony Valenzuela,
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Lambda Literary Foundation changes

As some of you already know I'm on the board of the Lambda Literary Foundation. We've been going through some changes lately:

Lambda Literary Foundation Announces Interim Changes in Board of Trustees, Executive Director Position

September 25, 2009 - Effective immediately, Christopher Rice has resigned as President of the Board of Trustees. Katherine V. Forrest has stepped into the role on an interim basis.

Forrest will be working directly with Tony Valenzuela, appointed by the board to serve as interim Executive Director while the Foundation continues its nationwide search for candidates for the permanent position.

"Tony brings to us a remarkable background in the worlds of LGBT literature and nonprofit organizations along with a history of activism," comments Katherine Forrest. "Along with this he has considerable experience in management strategic planning, fundraising, budget administration, marketing and promotional work, and events planning. We're very fortunate to have someone like Tony on board to work with Charles Flowers in ensuring a smooth transition to the next era of LLF."

Tony Valenzuela was born in Los Angeles and raised both in Guadalajara, Mexico and Southern California. A graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program of the California Institute of the Arts, Valenzuela is a longtime community activist and writer whose work has focused on LGBT civil rights, sexual liberation and gay men’s health. For the past six years he worked as the Manager of Research and Administration at GLASS (Gay & Lesbian Adolescent Social Services) in what was the largest and oldest LGBT child welfare organization in the country serving abused and neglected LGBT youth. It was during this time that he first became involved with the Lambda Literary Foundation sitting on the Lambda Literary Awards host committee, then co-producing the awards ceremony “In Memoriam” videos for 2007 and 2008.

As the Administrative Director of the Lesbian and Gay Men’s Community Center in San Diego in the early 1990’s, he spearheaded campaigns ranging from anti-gay hate crimes awareness to the needs of LGBT youth in schools. As the Director of VOICES ’96 (Voters Organized in Coalition for the Elections) he gained national recognition for orchestrating a massive grassroots community response to the homophobic and racist platforms of the Republican National Convention held in San Diego during which time his organization, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, successfully sued the RNC for the right to protest directly in front of the San Diego convention center. In the late 90’s Valenzuela became a leading voice of the Sex Panic movement drawing attention to the municipal crackdowns of commercial sex spaces throughout the country and advocating a renewed pro-sex politics in the queer community. Perhaps most notably – and controversially – he is credited as having ruptured the conventional wisdom in HIV/AIDS prevention among gay men by launching an international debate regarding responsible sex without condoms and continues to this day to be a leading voice in the gay men’s health movement. For his work on sexual politics, Out Magazine listed him among the “Out 100” of 1997, naming Valenzuela one of the gay community’s most influential leaders. In the early 2000’s Valenzuela wrote, produced and performed his acclaimed one-man show, “The (Bad) Boy Next Door,” a second generation AIDS narrative which toured in a dozen cities in the U.S. He has continued to publish essays, fiction and journalism and is currently working on a memoir. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband, Rob Ferrante, and their dog, Boo.

More soon, including some clarification on the Lambda Literary Award guidelines.

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My dragonish heart is utterly roused

Photo by David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Oh. My. God. There's a new find in Staffordshire, a hoard of luscious, gorgeous goldy old gold that is simply mind-blowingly fabulous. Go look at the Flickr set. It will make you croon. This is the biggest, best Anglo-Saxon find since Sutton Hoo. (Thanks, Lisa.)

For the next six days, you can listen to the BBC's audio segment. Fast forward to 5 minutes in.

Apart from sheer gleaming fabulousness, there is also apparently part of an unknown riddle (inscribed on something, I assume). I wonder which blogger will hold the guess-the-riddle competition...

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

the whole story

Kelley will be teaching a splendid new 6-week short fiction class, starting January 27th, at Seattle's Hugo House. It's called "The Whole Story:"

All good stories – those that delight or thrill you, make you laugh or cry — are built from the same fundamental blocks. We’ll explore essential elements of good short fiction: structure, point of view, plotting, character development, description and dialogue. You’ll learn practical techniques like specificity, emotional language, anchor points and narrative grammar that you can use immediately. The class will be a mix of reading, discussion, and writing, as well as an hour-long individual conference with the instructor.

Kelley loves to teach, and this will be a pretty cool opportunity to both learn or polish up basic skills and gain access to someone whose short fiction is so good it wins huge prizes and gets turned into TV shows. Oh, and readers sorta like 'em too.

I'm toying with the notion of teaching a non-fiction class, perhaps essays, perhaps memoir (perhaps both). I've never taught that before, but I learnt a lot writing And Now We Are Going to Have a Party. And it turns out that story is story--long or short, made-up or real. It might be fun.

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I want this (via Dear Author). Now. And it's a Microsoft product. My head just exploded.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

birthdays and silver linings

On Wednesday my computer started making horrible grinding noises. On Thursday, the city, doing work up the street, abruptly cut our power (and phone). I was at my desk. My monitor blew.

All day Friday, Kelley and I shared one monitor, like the Graeae of Greek legend. But the grinding got worse. I turned my computer off.

I spent a screenless weekend. I don't think I've spent so long unconnected from teh intarwebs while at home since, hmmn, well, since I first got email in 1992/3.

Parts of it were terrible and frustrating. It was like being without electricity. You know how that goes: Oh, I can't work, so I'll just make a cup of tea. Oh, no electric kettle. Oh, well, never mind, I'll read. Oh, no light. Well, huh, okay, I'll just float in the bath for a couple of hours and think. Oh, no electricity to circulate and pump the hot water...

I started to go crazy. I wanted to work on Hild. I couldn't. I thought, well, okay, I'll catch up with email. Oh. Then, okay, tuh, I'll finally figure out how to import my domain email into Gmail. Oh. Etc. My frustration--and heart rate, and blood pressure, cortisol levels--started to rise. I literally shook with it. I wanted to work.

Then Kelley, bless her name forever, bullied me into putting on my shoes and coming to the park. I pootled along the creek, breathed the scent of wet dirt (autumn is coming people, it's coming), listened to the leaves shivering in the light breeze (drier than they were; autumn is coming), then went up to the bluff and watched gulls hanging over the water. We sat there for about an hour. I heard half a dozen languages--Chinese, Spanish, Russian, some other Slavic language, some other Asian language, Arabic--and myriad accents. (One young woman, Japanese I think, had doused herself in so much perfume I staggered with nausea when I walked by. We had to leave.)

I went home and put Carmina Burana* on the house system and turned it up until the house trembled. I sang along: sometimes with the chorus, sometimes the soloist, sometimes the horn, sometimes the timpanist, sometimes (my favourite this session) the flute. And then I did it all again. It was fabulous. Don't worry, Kelley was tucked up in her office protected by noise-cancelling headphones. But the neighbours might have suffered just a little. Eh, they're tough--they have children--and it's not something we do very often.

And then I read. I started with Dan Brown's Lost Symbol--which threatened to re-raise my blood pressure so I abandoned it. Then a snippet of Marguerite Yourcenar (but, nope, wasn't in the mood), then, O frabjous day, I found a free ebook of Harry Harrison's Deathworld. Awesome! Bloody ridiculous--a bit like a Star Trek episode, with a planetary culture neatly divided in two--but just the ticket: violence! trickery! alien life forms! And, hey, then Kelley baked muffins. (I think they were to share with the poor benighted neighbours but, oh well, I ate them.) Nothing like vast quantities of carbs to soothe the savage beast. Then we watched Speed on cable. It ended up being a pretty good day.

Today, I have a new power supply, oh so quiet, and a new monitor, twice as big as my old one. Seriously, it is huge. (Turns out that up-coming birthdays are very damn useful things. Thanks Sharon. Thanks Art.) I'd been getting by on a tiny (15"? something like that), very old (first generation, I think) flat screen with low refresh rate and crap resolution. This HD thing is nearly as big as our TV. (Well, okay, no, it's not. It's 23". Our TV is 32". But still.) And everything is so sharp. Even spam looking interesting.

To cap it all, today is Kelley's birthday, which means tonight there will be much celebration and food and wine.

It seems there is life beyond the screen. But also that a huge screen makes life just that bit shinier...

* We have a couple of different performances, but I like the Andre Previn interpretation. He encourages the singers to give it all, at a couple of points pouring so much heart and sheer volume into the effort that their voices are no longer quite true. Yet they're so very human. I love it.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

everything blew up

My computer is offline. Grinding fan noise yesterday, followed by monitor death. I'll sort it all out and be back (hopefully) Monday.

Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying Life Without Screen. Have a great weekend.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

my New Scientist thing is up

It's here: my notion of flash fiction. Which turns out to be pretty different to everyone else's notion. What a surprise...

Some of you might recognise it. Go here if you'd rather listen than read. There again, the NS piece is a very slightly rewritten version so maybe doing both is the best way to go. Enjoy.

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all you need to know to restart civilisation

Last night I was catching up on my reading and came across a snippet in the New Scientist: the winners in a competition to invent the books the world needs most. Top of the list was a suggestion by Gisli Bjorn Heimisson of Iceland, for a compendium of the skills necessary to restart civilisation after the apocalypse.

So I thought we could play a game. Let's build that book. What skills should be in it? Making fire. Making bricks. Keeping pigs. How to sow, weed, cut, thresh etc. wheat. How to skin and gut small animals. How to sow harvest prepare and use flax/linen. How to spin and weave wool. How to make books and ink. And--to me--of vital importance, all you need to know about building sewage and irrigation systems.

What else? What would we need to rebuild civilisation?

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are you in London on Friday? Do you like science?

If you're willing to buy a copy of this week's New Scientist, the special science fiction edition, then you're invited to the pub to meet a bunch o' people I know and love:

To celebrate New Scientist's special science fiction issue, we're taking guest editor Kim Stanley Robinson - award-winning author of the Mars trilogy, Antarctica and more - down the pub. We thought it'd be fun to ask our readers to come along too!

So if you'd like to chat with other New Scientist readers, SF fans - and our writers and editors, of course - reserve your place now! Tickets are free, but you'll need to show us a copy of New Scientist magazine to gain entry. The venue is the Yorkshire Grey in Holborn.

Please note that it's first come, first served, and if you want to bring friends they will have to register individually and bring their own copies of the magazine.The new issue, including the sci-fi special, will be in shops on Thursday.

Friday, September 18, 2009 at 7:00 PM

I wish I could be there, but I'll be thousands of miles away, in Seattle. But us skiffy types can drink, we can party, and we can talk the hind leg off a donkey--so go! Have fun. Drink one for me.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

sounds like fun but aren't we a little old for this?

In the New York Times, Michael Agger reviews Lev Grossman's fantasy novel, The Magicians. He sneers at it. He thinks it "sounds like fun, but aren't we a little old for this?"

Too old for fantasy? Too old for fun? Both notions amuse, amaze, and appall me. I have two responses, the short one, from Pauline Kael, "If art isn't entertainment, then what is it? Punishment?" and the long one, in the form of my essay, "Living Fiction, Storybook Lives." It begins:

There isn't a culture on this earth without some kind of storytelling tradition, whether that tradition takes the form of a wrinkled elder in some dusty village spinning tales of gods and demons, a sleek publishing industry churning out westerns and romances and thrillers, or a Hollywood production company filming epic dramas and torrid soap operas. As individuals and societies we are shaped by story: our culture and sense of self literally cannot exist without it because we only know who and what we are when we can tell a story about ourselves. We learn how to tell our story by listening to the tales that are out there and picking through them, choosing some details and discarding others. If something happens to us that doesn't match the plot lines and characters we are familiar with, we don't know how to classify it or describe it, we don't know where or even whether it fits. It does not become part of our story. As Henry James once remarked, adventures happen only to those who know how to tell them.

I conclude, along with Tolkien, that the ones with the most to lose in terms of escapism are the jailers. So what is Agger trying to keep segregated, and why?

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

no shit, Sherlock

Another triumph for science. This news just in: studies show that early risers crash faster than people who stay up late. No shit.

We already knew that buttered toast really does mostly fall messy-side down, and having MS impacts your job prospects as well as your health. But I have other urgent questions that need answers. We need funding for a study that proves I get cold when the temperature goes down. Or that people get fat when they overeat. (Oh, wait, there are thousands of teams already working on that one--working to find complicated ways around it by making the food not really food, or manufacturing drugs that tinker with metabolism.)


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Saturday, September 12, 2009

last blast of summer

Yesterday in Seattle was a record high: 87°. Today it will be just as warm. So I'll be spending the day in the sun, drinking tea and thinking Hildish thoughts. (If anyone out there has any notions of 7th C Anglish baptismal practise, let me know.) Enjoy your day wherever you are.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

what kind of writer are you?

Busy day today (involving, among many other things, driver's licence renewal), so I'm just going to link to today's Sterling Editing blog, on how to figure out what kind of writer you are.


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Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Scientist

If you don't subscribe to the New Scientist, you're missing out. (Yeah, yeah, they do talk about slime mould but, hey, no one's perfect.)

I've been reading NS for about a year now; it's the Economist of popular science journals, that is, the best--above all others like a cirrus cloud. The Sept 18th issue should be particularly fine: it will feature a nifty little piece by (modest blush) me. Yes, me. In the New Scientist! First Nature, now NS. I'm beaming, thrilled to my geekish core.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Wow. We launched Sterling Editing yesterday and the response has been fabulous. For one thing, the bounce rate for the website is well under 16%. Which just shows how amazing Karina's design is. Visitors didn't want to just take a quick look and click away, they fossicked about, sampling many pages. And we had a lot of non-bot visitors: more than 1,100 individuals (as of 10:00 am today).

How do I know all this? Well, CyStats is my new favourite WordPress widget. I'm just bummed that there doesn't seem to be an equivalent for Blogger.

Most people seem to be visiting both the editcast and the blog post about first person that goes with it.

We'll be coming up with more blogs about specific writing techniques, more editcasts, meanwhile, please feel free to follow Sterling Editing on Twitter and Facebook.

As I type, we've only been live about 25 hours, but we've already had an overwhelming amount of support. Thank you, everyone.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sterling Editing

Kelley and I are proud to announce the launch of Sterling Editing: editing, mentoring and coaching for writers. If you want to make your writing better, we can help.

The website is brand new, but this is something I've been doing unofficially for a very long time. I've been helping other writers since I founded the Northern Dykes Writing Workshop in the early '80s. I've had 25 years' experience. I do it well. I love it.

I love sharing what I know. I've helped children with their dream stories, teenagers with their plays (a young woman I helped earlier this year won a young playwright's competition for the piece we worked on), emerging writers with their new and still forming talent, old pros with their I-don't-know-why-it-doesn't-work story, and retirees with the memoir they've been longing to tell for a generation.

I do it for Kelley. She does it for me. (We wrote a whole essay about it.)

Helping someone see to the heart of their own work gives me enormous pleasure. It never gets old to see that sudden beam of delight, that sheer joy of understanding How to tell the story. It's a thrill to work with a patched and lumbering lump of prose and help find the sleek, aerodynamic story just waiting to emerge.

I've done this with all kinds of writing at almost every length and in a variety of genres (I count literary fiction as a genre): short stories, novels, essays, articles, memoir, plays... Just about everything, with the exception, sadly, of poetry, which I love to read but on which I don't feel able to offer expert advice.

If this sounds like something you want to think about, go take a look at the website, built by the fabulous FoAN Karina Meléndez. It's very new, so we'll be adding to it during the coming days and weeks: blog posts on the craft and business of writing, links to editor and agent blogs, and lists of resources such as grants, prizes, and submission guidelines. For now I'd like to point out two things in particular: the seriously nifty (so, so cool) editcast, and the sample edit package. There's also a brief blog that ties in with both. When we're really rocking and rolling we'll start doing interviews with editors, agents, publishers, and writers who will be able to offer war stories, insider tips, and writerly advice. I also have notions of another cool informational tool, but that's not ready to go yet.

So go play. And if there's anything you want to know, about Sterling or writing, just ask us. Have fun. Keep writing.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

beaten by slime mould

Photo by KeresH from Wikipedia, licenced under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0

Do you ever feel as though the world is moving out of reach? I've just read this New Scientist article wherein some guy is planning to make a bot out of slime mould. Right. A bot. Out of slime mould. Well, okay, I thought, I can wrap my head around that, maybe, but then the article informed me airily that this same guy had previously used "the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction" to "build liquid logic gates for a synthetic brain" At which point I threw the magazine on the floor and folded my arms. If I wasn't so tough I would have burst into tears and started sucking my thumb, but I'm from Yorkshire: a hard lass. My lip didn't even tremble. Now, though, I have to go play with coloured blocks and maybe some crayons.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

autumn preview

We've had a blazing summer in Seattle: a record number of days over 90°F*, minuscule rainfall, and one unbelievable day of 103° when I felt as though I was living in one of those Twilight Zone episodes in which one's neighbourhood is somehow dissected out of the rest of the universe and dropped into its own particular hell. (Who has read Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life"? Very creepy story, and the basis for that Twilight Zone ep.)

Today, though, it's a preview of autumn. Cool, grey, raining, with the trees' luscious summer drapery suddenly wearing and tearing, as you can see from the photo. The wildlife is beginning to forage seriously. This morning we were both up early (lots to do, as you'll see on Tuesday) and the rain was pouring, in that leisurely Seattle way--steady, earnest, not too excitable--the leaves on all the trees surrounding our kitchen and breakfast room trembling gently as they offered their throat to be washed clean of dust. And then the small, untended plum tree in our back neighbours' garden began to shake violently, thrashing back and forth as though suffering its own private hurricane. It turned out to be two young raccoons, inexpertly trying to harvest the fruit.

No, we didn't get a photo. One day we'll remember to keep the camera handy but (oh, you know what's coming next) today is not that day.

I think it's going to rain all day. That suits me nicely. I will write for a while, then go submerge myself in a bath with the lights off while the water runnels off the roof and into the thirsty roses. I will feel as though I'm floating in a subterranean hot spring. My mind will idle. I will dream.

The other night in bed, too tired to read too wired to sleep, I was trying to convert the temperature on my clock, 19C, into F. I found the usual formula ([°F] = [°C] × 95 + 32) irritating, especially once the temperature dropped to 18.5°C (all those nines and fives, tuh). So I came up with an easier way: [°C] = 2[°F] - (2[°F] × 110) + 32. That is, multiply the degrees in Celsius, e.g. 18.5, by 2. Take away ten percent. Add 32. Easy. My gift to all you obsessive insomniacs with European nightstand clocks. We are legion...

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

a beautiful day

Yesterday was our anniversary. We took the day off: ten whole hours without screens and keyboards and connectivity.

So what did we do with our in-the-real-world day? We spent it entirely on pleasure.

We had a three-hour lunch. It began with a French 75, a Parisian cocktail named after a WWI cannon: gin, champagne, Cointreau and a spiral of orange peel. It kicked the lunch off with a bang. Then we chose a '98 Pio Cesare Barolo. We love the Piedmontese, and this was a stellar example. Our waiter went into paroxysms of ecstasy when he decanted it, practically gyrating with joy, raving about the nose and the colour. He wasn't wrong. We sat in that sunny room and drank it slowly and it opened like a grave and wondrous flower.

We ate a wild mushroom soup with haricots vert, wild huckleberry coulis and toasted French almonds. Then roast leg of lamb with red rocket onion, baby carrot, and some kind of pureed squash. Then the best crepes I've ever had: filled with a kind of smooth, slightly citrus custard, drizzled with chocolate, decorated with perfect--and I mean perfect--blackberries and ginger orange coulis. With fresh whipped cream.

We talked of life the universe and everything and I fell in love with Kelley all over again. Followed by espresso.

The sun was bright, but there was a wind with an edge to it, and those little scudding cotton wool clouds--a September day, with the taste of end-of-summer. A day to remember.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

our marriage is old enough to get married

Sixteen years ago today I married Kelley and she married me:

I think you've seen that picture before but here's one I'm pretty sure you haven't. It was taken in Montpelier, Vermont, in 1999, when I was teaching a writers' post-graduate summer thing. I don't know what we were thinking, hairwise, but it was ten years ago:

This one was taken in spring at our local restaurant. I think you've seen a version of but, hey, I like it so here it is again:

I feel very damn lucky. This marriage thing rocks.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

f**k you very much

I love this. (Via Cheryl.) Just love it. It's my answer to the people (I use the word loosely) who put Referendum 71 on the ballot here in Washington State. Please sing along with the video, smile, then go donate something to help restore the rights of quiltbag couples in this fine state.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

more new fiction for you

Here's another excerpt of new fiction from me. Not Hild this time, but the first 450 words of my new novelette, "It Takes Two," coming out next month in Eclipse 3, edited by Jonathan Strahan. I'm posting it as part of the Outer Alliance Pride Day.

It began, as these things often do, at a bar--a long dark piece of mahogany along one wall of Seattle's Queen City Grill polished by age and more than a few chins. The music was winding down. Richard and Cody (whose real name was Candice, though no one she had met since high school knew it) lived on different coasts, but tonight was the third time this year they had been drinking together. Cody was staring at the shadows gathering in the corners of the bar and trying not to think about her impersonal hotel room. She thought instead about the fact that in the last six months she had seen Richard more often than some of her friends in San Francisco, and that she would probably see him yet again in a few weeks when their respective companies bid on the Atlanta contract.

She said, "You ever wonder what it would be like to have, you know, a normal type job, where you get up on Monday and drive to work, and do the same thing Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, every week, except when you take a vacation?"

"You forgot Friday."

"What?" They had started on mojitos, escalated through James Bonds, and were now on a tequila-shooter-with-draft-chaser glide path.

"I said, you forgot Friday. Monday, Tuesday--"

"Right," Cody said. "Right. Too many fucking details. But did you ever wonder? About a normal life?" An actual life, in one city, with actual friends.

Richard was silent long enough for Cody to lever herself around on the bar stool and look at him. He was playing with his empty glass. "I just took a job," he said. "A no-travel job."

"Ah, shit." She remembered how they met, just after the first dotcom crash, at a graduate conference on synergies of bio-mechanics and expert decision-making software architecture or some such crap, which which was wild because he started out in cognitive psychology and she in applied mathematics. But computers were the alien glue that made all kinds of odd limbs stick together and work in ways never intended by nature. Like Frankenstein's monster, he had said when she mentioned it, and she had bought him a drink, because he got it. They ran into each other at a similar conference two months later, then again at some industry junket not long after they'd both joined social media startups. The pattern repeated itself, until, by the time they were both pitching venture capitalists at trade shows, they managed to get past the required cool, the distancing irony, and began to email each other beforehand to arrange dinners, drinks, tickets to the game. They were young, good-looking, and very, very smart. Even better, they had absolutely no romantic interest in each other.

I'd post more but my contract wouldn't support that. So if you want to read the rest (and it's juicy stuff--sex, love, biochemistry), go pre-order the book. (Right now it costs about $10. A steal for the stellar lineup--writers such as Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Cadigan, and Ellen Kushner.) And if you like the taste (I think my story voice is pretty different to my novel voice, but you be the judge), go read a whole story, for free, here.

If you're a writer or reader of queer f/sf, or if you want to be an ally of those who are, go join the alliance. Go RT today's Twitter posts (#outeralliance). Go help.

This blog has moved. My blog now lives here: